The laborious agonies of creating beauty, captured in relaxed, anecdotal prose.

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OTHERWISE NORMAL PEOPLE

INSIDE THE OBSESSIVE AND THORNY WORLD OF COMPETITIVE ROSE GARDENING

Investigative visits with some gung-ho rose-lovers, who reveal their methods, motivation and super-competitive ways.

Scott, a journalist and rose-grower in Portland, Maine, treks cross-country from her hometown to various sunny spots in California, stopping at the homes of numerous rose experts to find out why the flowers enthrall these cheerful, hardworking, deeply committed people. The rosarians (knowledgeable growers of roses) she meets are mostly male and mostly well-off—they need to be able to afford the space and paraphernalia necessary to keep the flowers flourishing. They’re also competitive by nature, and not just about roses: Rachel Hunter, of Temecula, Calif., once ranked third in a national typing contest. But the main focus of the rosarians’ obsessive competitiveness are the three national shows hosted annually by the American Rose Society (ARS); the chapter entitled “Judgment Hour” chronicles the results of the ARS Spring Show in San Diego. Only hybrid teas, Scott learns, can win the top awards of Queen, King, Princess and Best of Show, though thousands of varieties exist within 35 classes or categories of roses. The typical rosarian, she discovers, employs an armada of chemical weapons to keep the flowers in peak bloom and bugs and diseases at bay; the president of the World Federation of Rose Societies is actually a semi-retired forensic chemist and toxicology specialist. Chapters on “Rose Sex” (i.e., hybridizing) and the cultivation of antique rose varieties (“The Heady Scent of History”) are especially interesting. Along the way, Scott offers some fascinating bits of historical trivia: The Minoans of Crete first painted roses; the Romans were crazy about them; and French Empress Josephine so delighted in the flowers that she even managed to save many species from extinction at her estate at Malmaison.

The laborious agonies of creating beauty, captured in relaxed, anecdotal prose.

Pub Date: May 18, 2007

ISBN: 1-56512-464-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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